Summer 2018 is leaving little doubt that the 21st Century is hotter than the 20th.
All this serves as a reminder that heat illness preventative measures continues to be relevant.
A note to employers
Not only is employee safety important because it is just the right thing to do, there could also be economic and legal consequences to employers who do not follow and enforce basic safety guidelines.
That said, when a claim is filed, the burden of proof is on the employee plaintiff that the work they performed in the heat was the cause of their injury. A plaintiff’s claim becomes more difficult to substantiate when the employer defendant has not only followed the local laws and regulations but has demonstrated a commitment to taking precautions to mitigate heat-related injury.
An employer should adequately be aware of the regulations that are particular to their locality regarding a heat-related injury.
With that in mind here are some basic, commonsense tips that should keep you and your employees cool.
Wear loose, light-weight clothing and a wide-brimmed hat
The science behind this is due to balancing the cooling effect of sweat evaporation and trying to protect the skin from the sun’s radiation and/or work-related cuts and bruises (flying debris, bumping into objects, small drops of chemicals and vapor, etc.). Don’t laugh: science does say that no clothing really is the best option to maximize the cooling effect, but as that is not an option in the workplace, wearing clothing that allows the sweat to evaporate is important. You should also wear a hat to shade your eyes and face.
Where you are not covered, you will want to protect the skin with sunblock. This is important to protect from sunburn and the long-term risk of skin cancer. (NPR)
Drink 16 oz. of fluid for every hour in the heat
According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine the general recommendation of water intake from all sources (beverages and food) for women is 91 ounces and for men is 125 ounces. They say that roughly 80 percent of water is derived from beverages. This means under ordinary circumstances, between 72 and 100 ounces of water should be consumed per day. When your body is hot and sweating, that number increases.
The general rule of thumb to stay hydrated is to consume about 16 oz. of water per hour, which is 128 oz. for an 8 hour day. This will more than adequately provide the water a person needs to stay hydrated. However, the Center for Disease Control advises drinking more fluids during the hot weather, regardless of how active and that you should not wait until you’re thirsty.
While you are likely to get some water from other beverages, CDC also advises avoiding sugary or alcoholic drinks as they cause you to lose more fluids and may dehydrate you. Also, while an ice-cold drink might seem refreshing, it can cause stomach cramps.
And, finally, you are losing salt and minerals when you sweat, so consider consuming a sports drink to replace them.
When possible, try to move to the shade or cooler environments. Spending some time in the cool can help your body with its tolerance to the heat. Additionally, there are heat stress guidelines and exposure limits available from OSHA.
Know the signs of heatstroke
- Excessive thirst
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth
When it comes to heat, an ounce of prevention – hydration, protective clothing and sunscreen, and limiting exposure – truly is worth a pound of cure.
Many clients require employees to work in hot conditions: from the warehouse to the storeroom; from landscaping to outdoor banquet service. Being mindful of the heat and its mitigation measures is everyone’s responsibility.